If you cook in a tiny kitchen, you know it doesn’t take much for it to become really messy, really fast. Cleaning as you go is crucial, but even that doesn’t solve every problem. You want more space, more elbow room, a better system — anything to make cooking easier and a little more enjoyable.
From a quick cleanup idea to how to get more temporary prep space, here are 10 smart, simple tips that’ll make cooking in your small kitchen a little better.
1. Get more prep space with a burner cover or over-the-sink cutting board.
Frustrated by your lack of countertop space? Fake it with a large cutting board on the stovetop or over the sink. It’s a great temporary solution when you’re desperate for more prep space. You could also place a large cutting board over an open drawer and use it as a side table. (Make sure it’s fairly sturdy first!)
See our tutorial → How To Build Burner Covers and Double the Counter Space in Your Tiny Kitchen
2. Peel vegetables over a paper towel for quick cleanup.
When you only have a small bit of space to do all your prep work, it’s helpful if, when you finish one task, you can clear it off quickly for the next. One way to do that is to peel vegetables over a paper towel or mat. When you’re finished, just scoop up the towel (and peels) and throw it in the trash. Instantly clean counter!
3. Use a 3-tier cooling rack to hold ingredients or finished plates.
We’ve talked before about how great tiered cooling racks are for small kitchens, but to really get the most out of them, you need to think beyond cookies. How about using that rack to hold bowls of prepped ingredients or finished platters? Don’t spread those dishes along your (precious) countertop; go vertical!
4. Rinse and reuse tools and utensils instead of grabbing new ones.
You have quite a few measuring cups, multiple cutting boards, and a bunch of tasting spoons. It may be helpful to have options while you cook, but it only makes cleaning up that much harder! Try this instead: Use the same tools throughout the whole cooking session. When it comes to your mixing bowls, tools, and utensils, rinse and reuse what you’ve already got out instead of grabbing for a new clean one (and multiplying your mess).
5. Install a taller faucet for easier cleaning.
So, it’s a total pain to clean your stockpot, huh? There may be a simple solution: Install a taller faucet! Contrary to what you may think, it’s actually pretty easy to install a faucet yourself, and it’s renter-friendly. (You can always switch back to the old faucet before you move out if, for some reason, you have a crazy landlord who prefers the crappier option.) When Faith replaced the faucet in her old rental kitchen, she noted that it “effectively doubled the size of the pots and baking sheets we can fit in the sink comfortably.”
6. Harness the power of the #1 multi-tasking gadget.
As we’ve written before, if there’s one thing every small kitchen needs, it’s an immersion blender. This amazing multi-tasking tool can often replace a number of larger, clunkier appliances, and because it’s so easy to clean and reuse, it’s an amazing thing to have around when you’re cooking in a tiny space.
7. Create a set of “drawers” in the gap between the fridge and cabinet for more storage.
In 2013 The Kitchn’s founding editor, Sara Kate Gillingham, shared her simple small-kitchen trick: Place two three-inch-deep hotel pans in the gap between the top of your refrigerator and the upper cabinets, and use them as drawers! As she told , “In one, I have my mandoline and my scale. And then in the other one, I have recycling bags and string … It’s inexpensive and it’s fun for design, too, to not have quite that ‘everyone went to IKEA’ look.”
8. Hang a fold-down table for stowaway seating and more work space.
To survive in a small kitchen, you need adequate countertop and floor space. One way to help with this? Hang a drop-down table on the wall. Not only will it provide a little extra prep space when you need it, but it’s also a quaint, cozy spot to eat — and all without taking up any precious square footage!
9. Use a magnetic knife strip to hold your paper recipes.
If you’re using a paper recipe, get it up and off the countertop and in front of your eyes by attaching it to a magnetic strip (like this one) on the backsplash or the wall closest to your prep space, or take a magnet or clip and attach the recipe to your range hood! Just add this idea to our ever-growing list on all the wonderful ways you can use a magnetic knife strip around the kitchen!
10. Stow baking pans above the cabinets for easy access.
It’s super frustrating when you’re cooking in a small kitchen to feel like you’re always dealing with cramped cabinets, and annoying to have to rummage for a pan at the last minute. Save yourself the hassle and keep your baking pans in the gap above your kitchen cabinets, like Deb of Smitten Kitchen showed us here, which allows you to see all your bakingware at a glance. You may need this stool, though!